The fast pace of tech change is a challenge

OPINION: It’s never been more important to be up with technology.

Having a highly technology literate population will help us play a significant part in the global knowledge economy of the future.

Get it wrong and our economy will lag behind as the world moves more and more into the digital space.

And people who are unable to access information technologies, or who are without the skills to use them, run the risk of being excluded from social, educational, cultural and economic benefits.

Keeping up to speed is not an infrastructure issue for Christchurch – most homes, businesses and schools have phone lines or Enable fibre connections at the gate – but rather a matter of disposable income and access.

It is the cost of buying an entry level computer, tablet or mobile phone, keeping on top of the operational costs, data charges and then making sure that we have the right virus protection, software upgrades and applications to keep up with the pace of change.

So, what can we do about it?

We can amplify the importance of being technology savvy amongst parents, teachers, schools and our peers. We must work collaboratively to create ease of access and act with bold ambition to champion innovation and bring new ideas to life at a civic scale.

The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 is best described as an exponential pace of technology change that will lead to increasingly rapid disruption, fundamentally impacting the way we work and live.

“Disruptive tech” will not only effect production and processes but ultimately will change jobs and economic prosperity.

By disruptive technology I mean invention that changes the way we do things.

Think mobile phones or portable devices, the internet, increasing use of Cloud platforms, advanced robotics, autonomous cars, nanotechnology, 3D printing or virtual reality.

Sound familiar?

That’s because they are already all upon us and we have only scratched the surface of their impact on society.

In contrast to previous revolutions, which were characterised by single advances in mechanisation, we are now facing multiple new technology roll outs in quick succession that combined will impact on all aspects of our professional and personal lives.

For example, virtual reality software being developed in Christchurch will be able to train you to use tools and machines in a near real simulation.

Then think about how this might change traditional education systems.

Here in Christchurch we have an opportunity to come together with global experts and thought leaders to talk about the rapid technological change our world faces in the biggest event for tech in the calendar year.

The annual Canterbury Tech Summit is in Christchurch next week with a theme of Amplify.

Seven hundred of our country’s hardest grafters, STEM masters, logical risk takers, supporters and students will once again converge on Christchurch. Our local tech community will be able to meet together; to collaborate and inspire each other to do better and keep on the cusp of change.

I am assured attendees are guaranteed a fantastic line-up of quality speakers and workshops covering the latest top technological trends from Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality and blockchain to cybersecurity.

It’s all about amplifying our efforts, collaborating to do things better, faster and more efficiently.

It is a given that more jobs will be replaced by learning computers and this will extend into fields that have not historically been vulnerable to technology advances.

By contemplating the change, providing access, amplifying the message and educating, we can also explore new opportunities.

The pace of change should be considered an opportunity, one we need to collectively embrace and harness.

Technology will continue to affect us all – professionally and personally at a growing pace – and next week will be another opportunity to amplify that message.

The fourth industrial revolution is here. We all need to get ready.

Richard Sandford is ChristchurchNZ’s general manager of innovation and business growth